Recap: As you recall from Part I, it is 1976 and Jim with his three traveling companions is headed to an Underground Comix convention in Berkeley, California.
There I was driving on my first ever winding mountain road and all around me was nothing but whiteness. I tried to keep up with the rear lights of the truck in front of me but it outdistanced me. I didn’t dare stop or pull over. To where was I to pull over? I just kept driving, hoping that asphalt and tar would remain under our tires instead of thin air.
I have no idea how long this episode lasted. It could have been two hours, it could have been fifteen minutes. Either way, it felt like an eternity and the silence within that vehicle was eerie. Fortunately, no pin was dropped as we all would have lost control of our senses or, worse yet, our bowels.
The white out eventually lifted and we were fortunate enough to have smooth sailing the rest of the trip. As nightfall was approaching, we were headed into Salt Lake City. Since none of us were flush with cash and this was the ‘70s, I suggested we look up the one person I knew that lived in Salt Lake City. She was an old college roommate of my wife’s and she had dated my wife’s brother for a while so I knew her fairly well although I hadn’t seen her for a couple of years or so.
We found a phone booth that had a phone book (how antiquated, eh?) and, wonder of wonders, she was listed! I dialed the number and even more wondrously, she answered! Could all this wonderfulness continue? Sho’ nuff, pod’ner. She consented! The four of us scraggly, road-weary wastrels got the go-ahead to crash at her apartment, much to the displeasure of her roommate who locked her bedroom door, complete, I imagine, with a chair back lodged against the knob and a kitchen knife beneath her pillow.
You meet all types in Reno…
I didn’t blame her but the evening elapsed without incident and we departed at daybreak.
As the landscape flew by, each state we crossed became more interesting and lovelier than the one before. Colorado, Utah, Nevada—each had their unique flavor and particular beauty. I was afraid that when we reached California I would find it so amazing that I wouldn’t want to leave.
But, darkness once again was descending and we needed to rest our weary car-cramped bones. Unfortunately, the nearest town was Reno and we had no desire to spend the night there so we propelled ourselves past “The Biggest Little City in America” to a neighboring town called Sparks. As it turned out, there was nothing to do in Sparks except go to Reno.
I am not, or at least, try not to be judgmental about people’s looks but the people we saw in Reno were the butt-ugliest group of human beings I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been in a Wal-Mart). It seemed like Reno was where the losers from Las Vegas went and from the looks of them, they lost hard. We averted our eyes as best we could while grabbing some eats and hightailed it back to Sparks to get an early jump on tomorrow.
We crossed the border into The Golden State and—BAM!—I was knocked out. It was like all the fantastic qualities of the previous states got rolled up into one and dumped into this one—with some extras of its own thrown in for good measure.
Despite my eagerness to experience what there was to be found in San Francisco and Berkeley, I had to first drop off this Driveaway Car at its destination. It was some suburb that began with San. I was to return it with the same amount of gas that was in it when I picked it up. Since it was near empty when I got it, I was determined to return it as it was—with the needle hovering around the letter E.
I almost made it. On the exit ramp to San Whateveritwas, the car ran out of gas.
—To be continued—
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was the aforementioned Part I…
If this be Sunday, it’s time for more great tweets from our very Chairman Matt…
NFL running backs should consider starting a bizarro fantasy league in which they draft teams consisting of top criminal defense lawyers.
Rahm says CPS squalor issue comes down to giving parents a choice: “They should be able to choose between a dirty school and a filthy one.”
Asked about plans to fire 20% of CPS janitors, Rahm said “it’s critical, in our computer age, that every kid knows how to handle a mouse.”
Asked about upcoming mass layoffs of CPS custodians, Rahm offered to close more schools to keep custodian-to-school ratio at current level.
Byrd-Bennett warns Aramark, a private
#CPS janitorial contractor, that it could be replaced by the younger, cheaper Sweep For America team.
@jimmyfallon to tape his show in Chicago if Aramark “can demonstrate it’s able to keep even a handful of CPS schools clean.”
Rahm trumpets CPS “on-track” numbers, saying 63% of
#CPS schools are on-track to be cleaned by a competent crew at least once in 2014-15.
Emanuel brushes off questions about toxic swaps, insisting his focus is on Aramark and toxic school bathrooms.
Emanuel raises city retiree health premiums by 40%, but says retirees can pick up a few extra bucks circulating petitions for his candidacy.
Rahm scraps plan to name new
#CPS high school after Barack Obama; confirms plan to name soul-crushing standardized tests after Arne Duncan.
Unveiling brown street sign marking “Honorary David Bowie Way,” Rahm says “David Bowie is looking down on this city with great admiration.”
Counting down until the
#Vikings tweet that Peterson’s four-year-old son “deeply regrets the role that he played the night of the incident.”
A 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit Japan yesterday, injuring 3 people. Citing due process, the
#Vikings plan to start the earthquake on Sunday.
Spare the tree branch, spoil the child’s inclination to use a tree branch on his own kids twenty years down the road.
Anheuser-Busch, Nike and Radisson have deactivated Adrian Peterson, placing him on the exempt list.
#Vikings management will not appeal. #Vikings: “We didn’t ‘switch’ our position on Adrian. A ‘switch’ is something an adult uses to beat little kids. Our position evolved.”
BREAKING: Scotland to opt out of deal with United Kingdom; plans to sign with Miami Heat.
Bruce Rauner tells Scottish voters he’ll freeze their property taxes if they decide to leave the United Kingdom and become part of Illinois.
Editor’s Note: Matt‘s last post for The Third City was I’m Back…
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In April of 1976 I drove from Chicago, Illinois to Berkeley, California in order to attend an underground comics convention and, no, I did not need a miner’s helmet. It wasn’t that type of underground.
I was a youngster dipping my toes in the cartooning pool—that part of the pool called Underground Comix. For those not in the know, Underground Comix exploded in the 1960s during the Days of Rage. The scent of revolution was in the air and long-haired, ink-stained cartoonists were rebelling by standing the all-powerful Comics Code on its square head and tipping that sacred cow over. Ka-fucking-plop!
The Comics Code was created in 1954 as an alternative to government regulation. Fear of the creeping terror of juvenile delinquency caused by the reading of comic books, as per the questionable findings of the psychologist Frederic Wertham, caused comic publishers to self-regulate themselves. No comic book could find newsstand distribution without The Comics Code stamp of approval.
The Underground cartoonists, heavily influenced by the anti-establishmentary satire of the cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, writer and editor of MAD and LITTLE ANNIE FANNY, tossed censorship out with the bath water and drew whatever they damn well pleased and the counterculture loved it.
Companies with monikers like RIP OFF PRESS, LAST GASP and KITCHEN SINK published such titles as ZAP, BIJOU, THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS, TITS‘N’CLITS and SLOW DEATH. These 24 and 32 page black and white comics with color covers sold for fifty cents and were available in Head Shops all across Amerika (as it was spelled in those Smash the State days).
I had a handful of pages published in some of these Underground Comix books as well as work in a few other Underground publications.
The year was `76…
But, by 1976 printing costs as well as community obscenity laws had slowed down the one-time tsunami of underground comix. Fewer titles were being printed and the once wide open doors for new untested cartoonists were closing. From this financial circling of the wagons, a new comix movement was beginning—an age of print-your-own.
Clay Geerdes was a figure in the Bay area. He was a photographer and a chronicler of what was going down, man. He also loved comics and published an underground comix newsletter. A few years later he would become the Godfather of print-your-own Mini Comix, the “New Wave” version of Underground Comix. I first contacted Clay in the early ‘70s and we had many conversations through the mail (the U.S. Postal Service mail) where I would send him drawings for his newsletters. He was quite supportive as well as instrumental in my artistic development.
In 1976 he was putting on an Underground Comix convention. He requested that I do a drawing that could be used as a poster and I did. It is pictured here and my recent stumbling across it in my files was the impetus for this trip down Memory Lane. Clay urged me to attend if I could. Having never been to a comics convention before, I decided that I would go, despite the fact that I would be leaving my wife and two young children behind to fend for themselves. It would only be for a handful of days, a week at the most.
And Jimmy was running for prez…
I arranged to motor there in a “Driveaway Car”. This is a service where an owner pays an auto transport agency to have his car delivered by another driver. In this case, it was me. I had to get to Northlake, Illinois to pick up this car but it turned out to be a brand new one, perfect for driving across country. My brother Jeff would accompany me as well as another friend, Don.
One April morning the three of us headed westward. Our first stop would be in Denver to see an old pal of ours who moved out there. A feller by the name of Dan. We did so and hung out a bit and Dan decided that he would come along. Ah, those carefree days of youth and, in my case being a family man, irresponsibility.
I could write a book on irresponsibility.
The carful of us headed out to Cally-forn-eye-ay. Being a lifelong flatlander of the Midwest, this would be my first venture driving through the mountains, in this case, the Rocky Mountains. As we began elevating, it started snowing and before you could say Jack Robinso — we were engulfed in a white out.
—To Be Continued— (a literal cliffhanger, eh?)
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Accidental Literature…
At long last, the great Chairman Matt is back from an extended vacation — tanned, rested and ready to give us a week’s worth of tweets — @mifarmer
Asked about earlier statements that he favored eliminating the minimum wage, Rauner now says he didn’t understand the term “hourly wage.”
Asked about his relationship with Rahm Emanuel, Bruce Rauner insisted that “as wealthy, moderate Republicans, we have a lot in common.”
Asked how his friendship with Rahm might affect his political relationship with him, Rauner volunteered just three words: “He completes me.”
While uncorking a $6000 bottle of Napa Valley Reserve, Rauner tells Rahm, “According to the $18 prop on my wrist, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”
While extolling the virtues of fine wine, Rauner still plans to open Thunderbird Charter Wine Clubs in less affluent Chicago neighborhoods.
Did Rauner pay the wine club’s $100,000 entry fee in advance or wait, like he did with the $250,000 check to Payton, until after admission?
Rauner cancels private dove-hunt with $10k donors, replacing it with lower-profile “Ken Griffin Presents: Baccarat with Bruce Night.”
Rauner cancels private dove-hunt with $10k donors after failing to secure rights to use Prince’s “When Doves Cry” as theme music for event.
Rahm & Rauner — they got the wine, where’s their reefer?
Sources inside Rahm’s camp say 2011 campaign co-chair Juan Rangel has been placed on the 15-month DL with severely strained credibility.
Kyle Orton will sign with the Buffalo Bills even though the team said he can’t wear jersey number 187, which the Bills retired to honor O.J.
NFL alters its domestic violence policy, but still insists there is no medical consensus on link between elevator beatings and concussions.
CPS board votes for David Vitale to remain board president. Vocal parents backing Dick Vitale take to streets demanding recount.
Source close to Jackie Robinson West team says the organization has no plans to add a member of the Berrios family to its front office.
Amnesty Int’l has asked Barack Obama to transfer authority over Guantanamo to Rahm Emanuel and tell him the prison is a South Side school.
With the Chicago Sky in the WNBA Finals, it’s only a matter of time before guard Courtney Vandersloot signs a big marketing deal with CVS.
Editor’s Note: Matt‘s last post for The Third City was Rahm and Redford…
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Accidents are not always bad things. I’ve had the good fortune to have great literature happen to me by accident.
It all began in grammar school. Poking around the library I discovering a batch of books filled with whimsical poetry and cartoony drawings by a fellow with the funny-looking name of Dr. Seuss. I forget exactly which one was my first. It was either To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street or McElligott’s Pool. Either way I was hooked. I still maintain a small collection of Seuss books in my personal library, including one of his adult forays, The Seven Lady Godivas.
When I was in grammar school there was a national publication that was available for schools called The Weekly Reader. It was like a newspaper for kids. I can still remember reading about Russia invading Hungary and the photo of the tanks rolling down the street. I don’t know if The Weekly Reader exists anymore but it was pretty cool.
Shane rides off into the sunset…
The Reader also had a form where one could order paperback books. I usually ordered the ones with cartoons but one time I ordered a cowboy book by Jack Schaefer called Shane. What a great book that is! The movie version of it is also great. They both remain as favorites of mine. In reading this thin volume (one of the main reasons I ordered it, it didn’t have many pages) was where I learned the term “flannel cakes”, an alternative way of saying ‘pancakes’, that I enjoyed using for a while.
Growing up, there weren’t many books in my parents’ house nor music for that matter. There was just a Tony Pastor and the Clooney Sisters LP as well as a few Danny Kaye 78s. I eventually knew all those songs by heart. But, in the basement I discovered a 24 volume hardbound collection of the works of Mark Twain. I think they may have been a childhood gift to my mother. The volumes were barely cracked open. I cracked one of them open and, like with the Dr. Seuss books, I was hooked. I toiled away many an hour in the basement eating apples and reading Mark Twain.
Unfortunately, years later the basement flooded and the entire set was ruined. Well, almost the entire set. When I left home as a young adult I took one of the books with me, a personal favorite, The Mysterious Stranger. It is all that remains.
TTC welcomes any opportunity to celebrate the great Mr. Vonnegut!
When I was in high school I had a teacher in World History named Mr. Herbst. We could usually get him to veer from the curriculum to talk about the novel he was reading called Catch-22. It was certainly, to me at the time anyway, much more interesting than the school subject at hand. So, thanks to the easily swayable Mr. Herbst, I eventually read this fantastic novel, a candidate for title of The Great American Novel (in me ‘umble opinion), a couple of times…at least. So, stay in school, kids!
Later on, in adulthood, I met a fellow named Tim Roberts. He was in college and was majoring in English Lit. He lived in the apartment across the hall and he opened up brave new worlds in the cosmos of literature for me as he ladled out novel after novel into my eagerly awaiting and unwashed hands.
I was hooked again (quite the addict, aren’t I?) on the books penned by such writers as Philip Roth, Anthony Burgess, Henry Miller, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I read oodles of their oeuvres. However, the one author who really spoke to me was Samuel Beckett.
When I began reading his words I had to stop and catch my breath because I felt so strange. His words had such a heavy resonance that it was as if he was writing directly for me. He wrote in the way I thought and felt. I hope I don’t sound too pretentious in saying this but I still enjoy spending some quiet personal time sitting in an armchair reading the sparse and stark prose of Mr. Beckett while listening to the sparse and stark piano music of Erik Satie. It is such an apt blending of minimalist pleasure.
I won’t go on and on (“I can’t go on. I’ll go on”—Samuel Beckett) but you get what I mean. By a series of happy accidents, I discovered works of words that meant a great deal to me. I’ll make myself end this mundane meandering with one of my favorite quotes from Catch-22.
“Shut up.” he explained.
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Handy Man…
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I invented an intense 13-step workout over the weekend. I think it’s going to be all the rage.
It starts with a piece of home exercise equipment. If you don’t have one that’s ok. Just go out and buy something: a spinning bike, a treadmill, anything involving free weights. But none of that flimsy, fold up, store-it-in-your-closet crap. It’s got to be bulky and high-grade steel reinforced. The heavier the better, for reasons you’ll learn later in the workout.
Sure your top-of-the-line exercise machine will cost more money than you can afford, but justify it by telling yourself how much you’re saving by not joining a gym. Then assemble the monstrosity in your bedroom, and gaze at it with pride.
My workout device was a choice Schwinn home elliptical machine.
Step Two of the workout is to be motivated to use your exercise equipment a few times a week for a while. You’ll feel spry and monetarily justified. These will be the greatest days of your life.
The next step of the workout is to get bored with using your exercise machine and discover that there are other things you’d rather do at home than work out, like watch a ballgame, eat some snacks, or take a nap.
Step Four: Wait. And Wait. And Wait some more. The longer the better. I’d recommend five years minimum.
You’ll fall out of shape. And you’ll tell yourself every once in a while that you’ll give the machine another whirl, only to fail to muster the interest required to remove the layers of semi-soiled clothing strewn about the apparatus.
Fear not, this is part of the workout.
The next step requires a workout partner—a romantic companion, a gestapo roommate, a talking pet—someone who shares your living space, requires appeasement, and has grown weary of assurances that you’re going to get back into shape after some arbitrary event in the near future.
Let’s start the workout…
Like any good workout partner, this person is around for motivation. She or he will threaten you with social embarrassment or bodily harm unless you move “that two-hundred pound dirty clothes rack” out of your one bedroom apartment.
Step Seven is to move the exercise machine to your mother’s house. Don’t enlist anyone’s help to do this if you want to get the full effect of the workout. And oh, you’ll need to rent a U-Haul van because the fucking machine won’t fit in your fucking car.
At this point we enter the advanced stage of the workout. It moves swiftly and requires greater dexterity. Don’t get discouraged. Practice makes perfect and all that.
The next step requires that the temperature outside is ninety degrees Fahrenheit or more. Then attempt to transfer the machine out of your non-air conditioned apartment and into the van. Since your palms are sweaty, there is no good place to grip the thing, and its weight is unevenly distributed, you might end up scratching the hardwood floor or chipping a vintage door casing.
Again, fear not, this is part of the workout.
After you somehow drag the machine outside the door and into the hallway, the next step is to realize that the stairwell is too narrow and the machine too heavy for one person to manage a stairway descent.
And so this step requires a workout accessory. Not a kettle bell or a yoga mat, but an Allen wrench. You’ll want to use the tool to remove the screws and any of the machine’s protruding metal appendages so that you can get it down the stairs.
At this point you should be sweating like you’re strapped to a forest fire.
I’m tired from all this working out…
Step Nine requires you call another workout partner, this time the building maintenance man, to help you get the exercise machine downstairs and into the van, all the while giving you a look suggesting he thinks you’re pathetic as you repeatedly gasp for breath.
When you get to the service entrance next to the parking lot, your long-dormant muscles will be burning, your t-shirt will be soaked with perspiration, and you’ll feel a little faint.
Now jump in the van and drive, trying not to pass out while you drink water until the dehydration-induced hallucinations cease.
Step Eleven: When you arrive at your mother’s house, realize that the stairwell to her basement is even narrower than yours and so you have a major problem. Curse the day you were born and get slapped by your mom who you forgot was standing next to you. Declare “fuck it,” and decide to take apart the whole machine with your Allen wrench, piece by piece.
If you’ve performed the workout correctly to this point, your once-prized exercise apparatus is lying in about fifteen sections on the floor of a rented cargo van on a sizzling hot summer day.
The next step is to carry each piece from the van, through your mother’s garage and kitchen, down the stairs, and place it nicely in the corner of her basement next to your old baseball card collection and the stuffed fish you caught when you were nine years old.
By the time you’ve gone up and down your mother’s basement stairs fifteen times your legs should be in full cramp. As for the rest of your body, you’ll have pushed yourself well beyond the meager limits of your couch-potato physique and entered a heretofore unknown world of anguish and suffering.
When you lay down that last section of your exercise machine, you’ll recognize for a fleeting moment the irony that this was the greatest workout of your life. But of course you’ll lack the energy to smile.
Mercifully, step thirteen is to collapse from exhaustion onto the cold concrete floor of your mother’s basement and literally die.
And with that your 3 Million Minute Workout is complete. Make sure to cool down and give your body at least a day to recover before you repeat.
Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was My Take…
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A few years back we had our kitchen remodeled. Walls were torn down to the laths and reconstructed so they were actually level, new flooring was put in, new ceiling, light fixtures–we went whole hog (my apologies to any vegetarians who might be reading this). Even I, the obstacle to change of any kind, had to admit that this overhaul needed to be done.
Of course, I did not have a hand in the construction. The only tools I own or have ever used are a variety of screwdrivers, some pliers, a hammer and a small handsaw with a bent blade. Some things are best left to the professionals…or talented amateurs.
We had a granite countertop installed and asked our contractor to build us a custom square table with a matching granite top that would fit against the wall on one side (It’s a small kitchen). This completed our new kitchen and it looked marvelous. Well, it almost completed it. We purchased a pair of swiveling bar stools of dark metal to match the table top. Then the room was complete.
J.T. wrote a song about Mr. Siergey…
After a while we realized that the backs of one of these swiveling stools hit and dug into the wall, chipping off the paint.
I patched this marring up a couple of times and repainted it but it didn’t take long for it to happen again. After a couple of years living with this open scar upon our wall, my wife went to Home Depot and bought an eight foot length of chair rail. A friend of mine has a wood shop so I took it over to him so he could use a table saw and slice this long piece of wood to the desired length of 25 ¼ inches.
After reading that paragraph about my skimpy tool belt, it’s not difficult for you to imagine that I have never been able to bring myself to operate any piece of machinery with blades—table saws, jigsaws and the like. I don’t trust myself around them plus I value my fingers. Those things come in handy. I have used a regular hand saw on many occasions and have suffered only very minor injuries.
To match the metal stools, this piece of wood needed to be painted black. I had a bottle of black Cel-Vinyl® paint from my animation days that had to have been at least 20 years old but, like fine scotch, it’s still good stuff.
I applied a couple of coats and then sprayed it with an acrylic sealer. After it dried for a couple of days, the time had come to affix it to the kitchen wall.
The boys at TTC do a little carpentry work…
Being no fool (anymore) I used a level (a level, mind you!) and marked off on the wall where this chair rail should be affixed so that it would be straight. Using some brown finishing nails and a hammer that was a bit too large for the job, I hammered the rail into place. I only had to remove and rehammer one of the three nails and the other marks left by the large-faced hammer as well as the brown nail heads were easily touched up with the Cel-Vinyl®.
Unfortunately while wielding the 24″ long level I put a gouge in the wall far from where the chair rail would sit.
Down in the basement I still had the can of paint that was used to paint the kitchen and there was still some left in it. (See? It sometimes pays to never throw anything away.) Unfortunately, despite my perfunctory searching, I could find no spackling paste anywhere. I decided to go ahead and touch up the gouge with the paint anyway. Maybe it will go unnoticed. Plus, I could always pick up some Spackle® at some other point in time and properly touch up the wall scar, sand and repaint.
I sealed the paint can with Cling Wrap® so it should still be good even a few more years from now, which is about when I’ll get around to purchasing some Spackle®. In fact, by then that paint might be thick enough that it would work as both a filler and a colorer!
The lazy man’s guide to home repairs—I should write a book.
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Millennium Music…
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